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BWW Exclusive: Bringing DISENCHANTED! to Life During the Pandemic

Q&A with Nicely Theatre Group Founder David Carroll

BWW Exclusive: Bringing DISENCHANTED! to Life During the Pandemic

A production of "Guys & Dolls" spurred David Carroll to pursue starting a new theatre group in January of 2020. Musical theatre was a passion he shared with his father, though usually from the audience. In 2019, he joined the Birmingham Village Players in several small roles in "Guys & Dolls" and was inspired by the all the local talent and wanted to provide more opportunities for cast and crew to work and get paid for it. Soon after, Nicely Theatre Group (named for "Guys & Dolls character Nicely-Nicely) was born.

What inspired you to found the company?

Nicely was formed in January 2020. We planned on doing the musical PIPPIN as our inaugural production. It was to be in the summer of 2020-one weekend in Detroit and one weekend in West Bloomfield. We secured the rights and the sites, and we assembled the production team. But then we had to cancel everything. We weren't sure what to do-do we wait it out? Do we go in a different direction? We ultimately decided to do an online "One Act Festival", where writers submitted one act plays for us to produce and show on line. We received nearly 30 submissions and selected four short One Act plays and presented them online, free to the public this past summer. Just recently, we presented two more free virtual One Act plays. We wanted to And of course, these projects turned out to be pretty fun for our team.

Why this show? What drew you to it?

I love musicals, and accordingly, I always envisioned that musicals would be our primary focus. Though musicals are more expensive and challenging (especially with COVID-19), we felt that after our experience with the One Acts, we were ready to take on this challenge. But we added a show that was relatively short (we don't think long shows work well online) and didn't have a large cast. Mitch Master, our Artistic Director, had heard about DISENCHANTED! And he thought it would be a perfect fit. There only eight characters-each of whom are familiar to everyone. It is fun and light, but with some good positive serious messaging. And we were able to secure rights to a version of DISENCHANTED which is family friendly and only about 65 minutes long.


What's an unexpected hurdle you've had to overcome in the process?

I think the summer Online One Act Festival, and the two subsequent One Acts that we produced more recently went very well. We were able to provide work opportunities for actors and other theatre people, and we built important relationships with these people and with the writers. We were also able to provide entertainment options for the public and we received a lot of positive feedback. Our two most recent One Acts (both of which are still available to be viewed for free at www.nicelytheatregroup.org) were actually filmed onstage using multiple cameras. They are not ZOOM style. The shoot was like being on a film set, with proper COVID-19 safety protocols observed. A lot of time and work went into the filming and editing. I think the "ZOOM weary" audience noticed and appreciated this.

The One Acts helped us to build up our mailing list and our overall following. We also got used to working with one another, and we had fun doing it. A lot of what we learned was on the technical end-e.g. how to work through the limitations of ZOOM to get the best sound and picture quality. We also learned to "move on" from ZOOM, and how to essentially film a play on a real stage using multiple cameras and special lighting effects to make our productions the next best thing to live theatre. And we learned to do it all while observing proper COVID -19 distancing protocols. Finally, we learned that there is an audience for virtual theatre-and that there are actually benefits to virtual theatre that people appreciate. For instance, people appreciate that they can watch the show whenever they want, as often as they want, while in their pajamas, while crinkling wrappers and while keeping their cell phones on!


What is your favorite part of the production?

Our auditions and rehearsals were all virtual, which certainly made things more challenging. We were able to film live and onstage-kind of like being on a film set. We had to be very careful during the filming process, and we had a large editing project after the filming. But notwithstanding the physical limitations, we were still able to enjoy the fellowship and camaraderie common among cast and crew members. As with the One Acts, we were happy to be able to provide paid work for theatre artists at a time when there just isn't much to go around. And we were able to continue to provide inexpensive family entertainment to the public-especially in the dead of winter and with the pandemic still limiting entertainment options. We're hoping to get a lot of viewers-in the Detroit area and around the country. We also want to continue to build our reputation as a top-Notch Theatre Company among theatre professionals seeking work and among the viewing public. Finally, we want to continue to have fun doing this!

What should audiences be getting excited about?

The lighting, sound, sets, props, direction, cameras, special effects, editing, music...our Nicely creative team did an outstanding job. Our princesses are fantastic and brought all their energy to the stage! I can't wait for the public to see it!


Nicely Theatre Group's production of Disenchanted! starts streaming on Broadway on Demand Friday, January 15 through January 29. Tickets are $15 for the 65-minute production, get all the details at nicelytheatregroup.org.




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